North Xtra: North Allegheny faces another challenge
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Central Catholic coach Terry Totten would love to see his team play an old-fashioned, low-scoring football game Friday night against North Allegheny.
"That would be my wish," he said. "I just don't know if we can hold them down."
The Vikings (5-1, 4-1), ranked among the Post-Gazette's top five teams in WPIAL Class AAAA until a loss to Seneca Valley two weeks ago, travel to Carl A. Newman Stadium to take on top-ranked North Allegheny (6-0, 4-0) in a key Northern Eight Conference battle. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
"North Allegheny is very, very good, very well-coached, playing at a very high level," Totten said. "They have a lot of experience, both in game reps and big-game reps. Their quarterback is outstanding, two or three real good linemen, a hard running back, skill outside, a defense that swarms the football. I really don't see a weakness."
North Allegheny, which hasn't allowed a touchdown in four games, is coming off an impressive 14-3 non-conference victory against Gateway, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA ... the type of low-scoring game Totten is hoping for this week.
The Tigers entered the game against Gateway averaging 43.2 points per game on offense, while the defense was limiting opponents to 5.4 points. But the North Allegheny offense, behind quarterback Mack Leftwich, kept it mainly on the ground to get past the Gators.
Leftwich, although one of the WPIAL's leading passers with 1,207 yards, rushed for 89 yards on 12 carries to help the Tigers remain undefeated.
"Mack did a great job. He's a quarterback and obviously he wants to throw," said North Allegheny coach Art Walker. "It's tough to argue with any quarterback who's going to tell you he wants to throw all the time. He's such a team guy he knew that was the formula to get us into the end zone and hopefully win the game. He was on board with that."
Central Catholic's key back also had a big game last week. Junior Luigi Lista-Brinza rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 28-8 victory against Pine-Richland. For the season, Lista-Brinza, who has struggled with a high ankle sprain, has rushed for 459 yards.
"They are fundamentally very sound," Walker said. "They do a great job of matching up with what you're doing formation-wise and personnel-wise. I don't expect anything less than their best game defensively. Terry Totten is a defensive guy, he'll have them ready to go."
North Allegheny and Central Catholic have met only once in the past 10 years. The Tigers knocked off the Vikings, 17-7, in the 2010 WPIAL semifinals en route to WPIAL and PIAA championships.
"We really don't have a lot of experience out there," Totten said. "We're not that kind of team this year. I'm not crying poor mouth, we're going to battle. It's just that everywhere I look I have newer guys and younger guys. But we're going to do our best."
Springdale tailback Sean Dugan rushed for 1,272 yards as a junior last year and he hasn't lost a step. A 5-foot-11, 194-pound senior, he rushed for 241 yards on 39 carries and two touchdowns last week in a 24-0 Class A Eastern Conference victory against Apollo-Ridge.
Dugan needs just 1 yard for 1,000 for the season, having rushed for 999 on 127 carries, an average of 7.9 yards per carry.
Springdale (4-2, 4-1) will need his yards this week when the Dynamos travel to Lenzner Field to take on Avonworth (3-3, 3-2) in an Eastern Conference clash. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Mars Area (6-0, 5-0), the Post-Gazette's third-ranked team in Class AAA, begins a difficult closing run in the regular season Friday night when it welcomes Knoch (4-2, 3-2) in a Greater Allegheny Conference game beginning at 7 p.m. at Planet Stadium. The Planets take on their rival Knights Friday night, then finish with road conference games against Hollidaysburg (3-3, 3-2) and Hampton (5-1, 4-1) as they attempt to go undefeated and untied for the first time in school history.
Highlands sophomore quarterback Blake Leri pulled off the triple crown last week, scoring a touchdown passing, rushing and receiving in a 41-13 Class AAA victory against Derry. ... Butler Area ended a nine-quarter scoring drought when it kicked a second-quarter field goal in a 34-3 loss to Upper St. Clair. The field goal capped an incredible 24-play drive.